Room by Emma Donoghue
Hardly ever do I order a book in hardcover; they weigh too much, I do a lot of reading when flying, I prefer paperbacks so I can pass them on when I am finished (and no, I do not yet have a Kindle, because I like to pass my books along.) I made an exception for Room when I heard a review on National Public Radio. It sounded so different, and I wondered how it could be written without it being so horrible I couldn’t read it.
The story is told from the point of view of a five year old boy who lives in Room, an 11 x 11 foot space. He was born there, he has never been out of there.
As you read, you gain such huge admiration for the human spirit. Jake’s mother was abducted off the streets and kept in this room, which is totally soundproofed, surrounded by a chain metal cage, and can be entered and exited only by a door with a code entry lock. She raises Jake as best she can, keeping him hidden from her abductor. She teaches him reading and math, she tries to raise him eating nutritious foods, they have hygiene rules and daily physical education. Every now and then, she has a day when she is “gone”, when Jake wakes up and his mother won’t ‘switch on’ and just stays in her bed, sleeping all day. On those days, he feeds himself and plays quietly, knowing that his Mom will be back ‘on’ the next day – or so. He doesn’t understand his Mother’s despair, and she shelters him from it as best she can.
And then comes the time when she realizes that life is only going to get more and more difficult as Jake gets older. She makes a plan, a plan that relies on Jake, a desperate plan.
The book is fascinating. I have already passed it along; once I read it, I wanted to share it. In many ways, it is a cross-cultural book, because the culture Jake spends his first five years in is so insular, so enclosed. Emma Donoghue did a great job describing his world from his point of view, and dealing with the aftermath. I can’t tell you much more without spoiling the book for you in a major way.
There is a Reader’s Guide section at the back, and this book would be an excellent selection for a book club.